Yep it’s that time of year again! Time for the smell of frying food and fresh manure! I have been going to state fairs for as long as I can remember. When I was little my brother and I would take a whole day off from school, my parents wouldn’t go into work and depending on what extended family was in town my grandparents and my aunt and uncle would come with us. I looked forward to going to the fair as much as Christmas. Well, it would be in the top three of most anticipated days of the year; Christmas, Birthday & State Fair. They can battle for the top spot depending on the season.
There really was so much sensory stimulation for a small kid. Everything there seemed new and if not exciting, at least unique. Even the farming equipment pamphlets and the Dupont pencils they would give out still held some kind of mysterious quality. I think part of the fascination had to do with the great big buildings everything was housed in. They just seemed larger than life. Filled with more things I had never seen than things I had. There was always fake Astroturf in them too creating a distinctly green cast to the light. I think this whole atmosphere made the experience even more exciting.
I have memories of particular fairs, but my memories are in no chronological order. I can not remember any particular fair from beginning to end. Nor could I tell you the order in which I have any of my memories. Instead they coalesce into this nostalgic “state fair experience.” I remember seeing small doughnuts fried in front of me. At that point I didn’t know doughnuts were fried. For some reason that memory has stuck with me for a long time. I remember looking at the jars of jellies and the cookies and cakes and wondering how they judge them. I had never canned anything and the process seemed mysterious then. (I now have a grand mother in law that cans all the time:) There was one section that was meant to look like pioneer wood cutters. It had log cabins, bon fires, people in home sewn clothes. But for some reason I never liked that section. It always felt lonely and empty to me. Maybe it was because fewer people were there, maybe because the natural wood tones paled in comparison to the riotous colors of the games and food stands. I will probably never know, but to school aged Katie it felt lonely. But that was the only part that had a forlorn feeling.
Because then there were the animals! Chickens, cows, rabbits, goats, pigs and baby ducks galore! I have the most vivid memories of the chicken tent. It were always darker than outside. The light that was available was usually orange and yellow because of the tent canopy. So it felt like walking into this colored cave. The cacophony of the roosters and chickens seemed to echo off the cloth walls creating a riot of color and sound. We would walk through, clucking and crowing at them. My dad would always poke his fingers through the cages to say hi, even though he wasn’t suppose to do that, while my mom and I collected feather off the ground. (We tried to get the ones with the least amount of chicken poop on them. I don’t think salmonella existed then.)
One year my brother, my dad and I went on a mini sky diving apparatus. We were strapped into a multiperson harness and hauled up to the starting point where we were suspended laying down on our stomachs. This gave us a vantage point over a large portion of the whole fair. But most importantly it gave us a good view of our mom. She hadn’t actually known we were going to do this little stunt….So when the announcer said our names I think the shriek along with the hands put over her eyes meant “good luck.” I think…My brother was the youngest person who had participated in this particular ride. He was 6. Mom does talk to dad, now:) Oh, and one year we had to yell at the operator of a ride to stop because the centrifugal force was making my dad and I crush my brother…I wonder what my brother thinks of the state fair.
Anyway, I continue to love to go to the fair. It is still full of wonder and excitement but it is a little less mysterious now. Since I am a few feet taller things don’t seem so massive anymore (except for the cows-cows are still really big animals). Plus a few other things have changed along the way. Now I go to the NC State Fair instead of the “original” VA State Fair. No offense to NC but I will always think VA’s is a bit better. I go with my husband now instead of my parents. Plus I can’t help think about the calorie count of all that frying food just a little. I ignore those thoughts though, because everyone knows calories don’t count at the fair. I go now to take photographs more than anything. To capture a little of the wonders past and present.
Here are a few pictures from NC State Fair-’11